Four footnotes in the Inspector General report on the FBI’s Russia investigation, which were partially declassified on Friday, indicate that the FBI suspected that portions of the Steele dossier contained Russian disinformation as early as 2017.
FBI officials had also expressed concerns about former British spy Christopher Steele’s ties to Russian oligarchs as early as 2015, but those concerns were never relayed to the team that investigated the Trump campaign. The Steele dossier eventually played a “central role” in the FBI’s application to the FISA court to surveil Trump campaign aide Carter Page despite its dubious origins.
Steele had “frequent contacts with representatives for multiple Russian oligarchs, [and] we identified reporting the Crossfire Hurricane team received from (redacted) indicating the potential for Russian disinformation influencing Steele’s election reporting,” reads footnote 350. “The [redacted] stated that it did not have high confidence in this subset of Steele’s reporting and assessed that the referenced subset was part of a Russian disinformation campaign to denigrate US foreign relations.”
The same footnote casts doubt on allegations that the Russian government had blackmailed President Trump by allegedly compiling video footage of him with prostitutes during a visit to Moscow in 2013.
“A [redacted] report dated [redacted] 2017, contained information about an individual with reported connections to Trump and Russia who claimed that the public reporting about the details of Trump’s activities in Moscow during a trip in 2013 were false, and that they were the product of [the Russian Intelligence Service] ‘infiltrat[ing] a source into the network'” that compiled the dossier, the footnote states.
The footnotes also show that the FBI concluded that Russian intelligence planted the allegation that Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen had met with Russian officials in 2016, and that a Russian intelligence source had penetrated the network of information sources used for the dossier. While the footnotes indicate that the FBI knew of the possible Russian disinformation in 2017, the agency was aware as early as 2015 of Steele’s problematic connections to Russian oligarchs.
“It’s ironic that the Russian collusion narrative was fatally flawed because of Russian disinformation,” Senators Ron Johnson (R., Wisc.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), both of whom had pushed for declassification of the footnotes, said in a statement. “These footnotes confirm that there was a direct Russian disinformation campaign in 2016, and there were ties between Russian intelligence and a presidential campaign – the Clinton campaign, not Trump’s.”
The Steele dossier was compiled as opposition research for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in 2016. The campaign hired Fusion GPS, which contracted Steele’s team in June 2016.